What’s in a song? Everything.
I was recently booked to play music for a church wedding ceremony. It was a last-minute thing and the bride was so apologetic!
“I’m sorry I’m asking you so late! I didn’t realise I had to organise music! I know there’s very little time and I don’t want to put any pressure on you. Choose whatever you like – I don’t know much about music, I don’t listen to much music. I really don’t care what you play!”
I took that in the spirit it which it was given and understood the bride was being lovely and accommodating.
I assured her I had a wedding accompanist book and a collection of pieces appropriate for prelude, processional, interludes, recessionals and postlude. In other words, background stuff for before they start, music for people walking down the aisle, contemplative music for the signing and other quiet times in the ceremony, bright and happy exit music, and something to play for the ones hanging around afterwards.
“You don’t have to think about the music, I’ve got it all covered,” I said.
“Oh that’s great,” she sighed thankfully, and hung up.
So, an easy ideal gig, right? Well yes, it was straightforward to prepare for. I sorted out wedding standards for a nuptial Mass:
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach
Air (from Water Music Suite) – Handel
Andantino from Ballade in F – Chopin
Morning from Peer Gynt – Grieg
Ad-libbing on Morning Has Broken – Traditional
Canon in D – Pachelbel
Bridal Chorus (from Lohengrin) – Wagner
Hymns during Communion
One Bread, One Body
Be Not Afraid
Ave Maria – Bach/Gounod
Wedding March (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) – Mendelssohn
Nocturne in E flat – Chopin
La Fille au Cheveux de Lin – Debussy
Prelude in C (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Part 1) – Bach
It felt like a generic job, although there was nothing wrong with that.
Then two days before the wedding, I got a call.
“Actually, I’ve just thought of a song I would really like during the Offertory procession.”
“Have you heard A Thousand Years? There’s a nice instrumental version by The Piano Guys.”
“No pressure if you can’t do it, it’s my fault, I know…”
I said I would try but no promises, since I did have another gig at the same time and would be hard pressed to find the time to learn a completely new song in one day.
I listened to A Thousand Years on Youtube while I was driving between my students’ homes. It was beautiful. By the time I got home I wanted to learn it. I scoffed a late dinner and sat at the piano.
On the day, the bride didn’t know whether I’d managed to learn it. So at the Offertory procession, when I played the opening chords, I saw her face light up with surprise. It made me really happy.
It turned the wedding from a job to something important and with meaning. As I played the song, I knew the bride would not remember the other music, but she would always remember hearing this song A Thousand Years on that very special day.
I’m glad she asked for it, and I got to learn it.